Kathy Bates is one of those actresses who just by being in a movie can make it better, more entertaining, which to be honest is the case of "Ambulance Girl" a TV movie which not only does Kathy Bates star in but also directs. Now it is a decent enough movie as it combines elements of mid life crisis with fear whilst also highlighting the work of the EMT, wrapping it up in a mix of drama and comedy. But whilst there is plenty which is entertaining, be it a funny set piece as we watch Jane exuberantly trying on her EMT equipment or a moment of drama between Jane and her husband Michael it sadly ends up not very memorable. Here I am less than 24 hours after watching "Ambulance Girl" and not so much struggling to remember it but nothing really sticks out, which springs to mind.
For the whole of their marriage Jane (Kathy Bates - Titanic) and Michael Stern (Robin Thomas - About Last Night...) have always been side by side, working as food critics and authors; but now with Michael having been sober for a year Jane is feeling like she has no purpose as he no longer needs her to manage his life. Realising she has a primal need to help others Jane becomes part of the EMT service and despite suffering from a barrel load of fears manages to pass the test. But her devotion to helping others, going out on all calls leads to issues between her and Michael as after 30 years of being side by side neither is use to the other having their own life.
At its heart "Ambulance Girl" is a movie all about fear, the simple fear such as Jane's fear of enclosed spaces but also her fear of losing Michael as after a year of being sober he is not so dependant on her to manage him. But this exploration of fear and the impact it has on a married couple who for 30 years have been side by side is wrapped up in the story of Jane confronting her fears as she becomes an EMT. And in turn this brings further complications as whilst Jane feels at a loss with Michael now in control of his life he feels at a loss as she creates this new life for herself. And it causes issues as their relationship changes and they don't know how to deal with now having separate lives after 30 years of being side by side. It is a well worked story which highlights not only issues over fear but also how change can be hard in a relationship which for so long had been set in stone.
Now this exploration of fear is delivered in a mix of drama and comedy, switching between each as the focus of each scene changes from Jane becoming an EMT to the disintegrating relationship with Michael. And it works, it maybe a little too manufactured as Jane struggles with the training, destroying the training dummies and fantasizing about hunky looking firemen but it does make you smile. And when you're not smiling the drama of Jane and Michael unable to deal with how they now have separate lives whilst still loving each other feels tangible. When Jane comes home after an emergency call and discovers Michael moving in to the guest room you can feel not just her hurt but also her fear as it appears another nail in the coffin of their marriage.
What makes all of this and "Ambulance Girl" work is simply Kathy Bates as whilst Robin Thomas does a good job of playing Michael her struggling husband and Gordon Pinsent is solid as their friend Pete, it is Bates who delivers the energy. Bates has such a wonderful talent for one minute delivering humour, be it dancing around in her EMT gear yet the next allowing the emotion of her troubled marriage to become the focus.
What this all boils down to is that "Ambulance Girl" is a good movie and does a nice job of exploring various themes such as fear and a troubled marriage whilst highlighting the work of the volunteers in the EMT service. But sadly it is not very memorable and whilst Kathy Bates is entertaining mixing emotion with humour it is the sort of movie which within a few days you will have forgotten about.